So here's what was up with Walking Dead's Old Man Rick flash-forwards

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Oct 23, 2017, 10:38 AM EDT

The Walking Dead Season 8 premiered with a show that was big on drama and big on explosions. Throughout the episode, we were treated to two different flash-forwards. Here’s what we think about both sequences:

In the first set of flash-forwards, Rick is an old man, his hair shaggy and grayed. Michonne sits at a table, and Carl makes his way past the camera. Baby Judith is a girl, perhaps 7 years old. Together, she and Rick look at the Hilltop colony at work, tending the small farm. It’s an idyllic look at Rick’s future …

… and we don’t believe it’s real.

Why not? The entire sequence is filmed with a glossy patina, the kind Hollywood uses when it wants to convey a fantasy sequence. It also portrays a world without Walkers—and they are so important to the show they’re in the freakin’ title. It’s a dream of what Rick wants to achieve. The episode is framed around Rick trying to bring everyone together to defeat Negan for a brighter future, and this looks to be Rick's way of picturing it.


Producer Greg Nicotero teased as much to Entertainment Weekly, saying those scenes were a "great opportunity to glimpse into the future and see that even though they’re in this dark, warlike time, that there’s a great possibility that things will work out for everybody and it’s good times."

The other flash-forward is far more likely to be reality: Rick, red-eyed, standing over a grave, quoting the Koran: “My mercy prevails over my wrath.” He’s coming to a conclusion about both states of being. Knowing Rick, he’ll be wrathful to some and merciful to others.

So whose grave is Rick standing over? Considering the emotional weight, as well as their presence in the fantasy sequence, our guess is that one of these three is the most likely: Carl, Michonne, or Judith. That's all guesswork for now, but looking to the comics as well, it's a loss that could make some narrative sense and still carry a ton of weight.

It's obviously not set in stone, or in this case, celluloid. But the show has seen enough losses to know that this one being teased seems to have more emotional impact on Rick than others.

Give us your best theory and let us know what you think about the premiere.